ALLEN, Texas – It was back to practice for the Allen Americans yesterday as they prepare for two home games this weekend against the Rapid City Rush. Under normal circumstances, you would expect Allen to get four points against the Rush. They are in last place in the Mountain Division and have the fewest points in the entire ECHL.
But if you look behind the numbers, it is a different story. Rapid City got off to a horrible start this season. At the end of December, Rapid City had only 16 points compared to 41 for Allen. However, since the beginning of January, the Rush have earned 25 points and Allen has earned only 15 points. In other words, over the past two months, Rapid City has been 10 points better than Allen.
– If you watch Allen practice often enough you can pick up a pattern and rhythm when there are four or five days between games. The first day back after a day off is always filled with more skating drills that concentrate as much on conditioning as anything else. As the week progresses, the drills focus on areas for improvement but are also a balance of work and fun. I have heard Steve Martinson talk about this many times over the years. Even when the team is struggling like they are now, finding that balance between work and fun is very important. Sure Martinson wants the team to take all this losing to heart, but he also doesn’t want them down in the dumps all of the time. I would expect some time devoted to three-on-three cross-ice scrimmaging which has a method to its madness but is also fun for the guys. Toward the end of the week things slow down, more time is spent on special teams and fine-tuning the approach for the next opponent.
– Along with his coaching duties, this week is very busy for General Manager Martinson. When I touched base with him after practice yesterday, he was monitoring the NHL trades since it was deadline day. What each and every NHL teams does has a ripple effect that impacts the AHL and ECHL. Obviously, San Jose is the most important since what they do has a more direct impact on Allen. Tracking who are the buyers and sellers at the NHL level creates a chess match all the way down to the ECHL. Some organizations now have a surplus of players and others are short. It all could impact the ECHL as it relates to trades, loans, and reassignments.
– The ECHL trade deadline is 10 days away so there is a lot of negotiating between teams that are trying to upgrade their roster for this season and others that are interested in getting future considerations which will turn into players for next season. I am sure Martinson is fully engaged in this process.
– The other resource that Martinson is spending a lot of time on this week is recruiting players that are just completing their college or junior eligibility. The first teams are just being eliminated from the playoffs with the better teams still playing. If you track the ECHL transactions, you will notice some of these players being signed each day. It will still be a while before the best teams and most of the best players are available and many will try and get an AHL deal before signing with an ECHL team. Martinson typically brings in one or more of these players each season and there is no reason to believe that won’t be the case again this season. It may be a tougher task than in the past since the best players want to join teams that will go deep in the playoffs and Allen has been faltering recently.
– Now that the NHL trade deadline has passed the next question is when might Allen get players assigned to the Americans. San Jose acquired two forwards in the last week and traded two forwards and a goalie. The Barracuda roster currently shows one goalie, eight defensemen and 15 forwards. The Barracuda doesn’t play again until Friday.
– The bottom line is there are three different avenues for roster changes this week or next. It could be in the form of a trade, the signing of players out of college/juniors, or players could be reassigned from San Jose or some other AHL team. There is little doubt in my mind changes are coming, it is just a matter of time.
– Allen is in a tight race for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Mountain Division. Tulsa is in fourth place with 58 points, Allen is in fifth place with 56 points and Utah is in sixth place with 54 points. Here is a look at the remaining schedule for Allen, Tulsa, and Utah.
17 – Allen (10 home, 7 away)
17 – Utah (7 home, 10 away)
16 – Tulsa (9 home, 7 away)
Games remaining against teams above .600
8 – Utah (Colorado 4, Idaho 2, Manchester 2)
7 – Allen (Colorado 4, Idaho 3)
4 – Tulsa (Colorado 3, Idaho 1)
Games remaining against teams below .400
6 – Tulsa (Rapid City 3, Quad City 3)
3 – Allen (Rapid City 3)
2 – Utah (Quad City 2)
Games remaining outside the Mountain Division
2 of 17 – Allen (Rapid City 2)
5 of 16 – Tulsa (Quad City 3, Kansas City 2)
9 of 17 – Utah (Kansas City 2, Quad City 2, Indy 2, Manchester 2, Worcester 1)
– Allen finishes the season with eight of their last nine games at home. If it all comes down to the last weekend of the season Allen has two home games against Idaho.
– Tulsa plays six of their last seven games at home and if it comes down to the last weekend of the season Tulsa has two home games against Rapid City.
– Utah plays five of their last eight games at home and if it comes down to the last weekend of the season Utah has two home games against Kansas City.
– If Allen, Tulsa and Utah are looking to catch third place Wichita (64 points) they can take solace in the fact Wichita has 16 games remaining but play 10 of their last 12 on the road.
– If you tracked the NHL trade deadline transactions yesterday there were 16 trades, 31 players traded and 18 draft picks exchanged. I saw several articles about the hardship of players and their families being uprooted. I am sure it is difficult for anyone that has to move and uproot their family but it also reminded me that players in the ECHL have 24-hour contracts, virtually no job security and make a helluva lot less than the NHL players being moved.
Here is a list of players that have played in Allen over the years that have been traded or released just in the last three weeks:
Nick Miglio – Kansas City to Colorado
Anthony Calabrese – Allen to Worcester to Greenville to Wheeling to Huntsville
Nolan Descoteaux – Indy to Wheeling
Jaynen Rissling – Wheeling to Indy
Marcus Basara – Allen to Wheeling
Joel Rumpel – Wichita to Utah
Garrett Klotz – Jacksonville to Kansas City
DID YOU KNOW: Joel Chouinard and Casey Pierro-Zabotel are the only players on the Allen Americans team that have played in all 55 games this season. Even more laudable is they both played in all 72 games for their team last season, Joel in Allen and Casey in Colorado.
I think one of the more undervalued statistics there has to do with players that never miss a game. I call them the “Ironmen” and they are few and far between. In AA hockey with limited rosters and salary cap/budget issues, having a player that plays every game in a season is something special and valuable. That means playing with injuries, no AHL call-ups and answering the bell each and every game. Congrats to all Allen Ironmen past and present! You will note it is a very exclusive club occupied by some very talented players.
2017-18 – Joel Chouinard, Casey Pierro-Zabotel (thru 55 games)
2016-17 – Chad Costello, Joel Chouinard
2015-16 – Chad Costello
2014-15 – Chad Costello, Aaron Gens, Jamie Schaafsma
2013-14 – Spencer Asuchak, Daniel Tetrault, Mike Berube
2012-13 – Jamie Schaafsma, Jason Deitsch
2011-12 – Jason Deitsch
2010-11 – Colton Yellow Horn, David Strathman
2009-10 – Bruce Graham, Christian Gaudet